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August 9, 2010

Freshmen could see early action at linebacker

Quenton Brown and LeBranden Richardson came to UCF this summer listed as defensive ends, but the true freshmen have been working with the linebackers since the beginning of camp. Coach George O'Leary says both could have an opportunity to contribute there this season.

"Quenton Brown and LeBranden Richardson have impressed me with their contact speed," O'Leary said. "There will be a lot of things happening in the next couple weeks to see if anybody can help us with the depth at that position."

O'Leary said Brown doesn't have the size yet to be a full-time defensive end, though he could step up to the line in some situations.

"I think Quenton moves very well," O'Leary said. "He played some linebacker in high school. I've been really pleased with him. He's a good athlete. He's light in the pants to be a first and second down defensive end, but he could be a third down type guy to help us out there. I think he's athletic enough and a smart kid to play linebacker. That's what separates freshman linebackers. Are they smart enough to handle the formations and the checks and all the stuff you've got to get done?"

UCF has a solid group of senior starters at linebacker with Chance Henderson, Lawrence Young and Derrick Hallman.

"Nothing beats quality experience and they've all been out there," O'Leary said. "They've seen everything. I see them helping our younger kids on the sideline even when they're not in there and that's big. They're all good energy guys and good contact guys. I think they direct the defense. That's where leadership needs to come from because they have the most experience."

2009 was supposed to be Henderson's senior season, but he missed the entire year while he recuperated from a preseason knee injury. He was somewhat limited in the spring and is now cleared for full contact.

"Chance has been moving pretty good," O'Leary said. "I'll watch more in scrimmages, but he seems to be moving well. He has better contact speed. He has a lot of playing time under his belt and obviously Derrick Hallman and Lawrence Young do as well."

First day in pads: Monday's practice, their fifth overall, was the Knights' first day in full pads. Per NCAA rules, the first two days have to be in shorts and jerseys only (no pads) and they can add shoulder pads (with shorts) for the third and fourth workouts.

UCF's typical schedule calls for late afternoon practices, but Monday's workout was pushed to the morning to avoid forecasted rainy weather. The Knights always have the option of practicing inside the Nicholson Fieldhouse, but they wanted to avoid going indoors again after spending both weekend workouts in that facility.

"A lot of the younger kids wilted a little bit in the middle of practice there, but I thought we got a good installation day in," O'Leary said. "From a standpoint of effort, enthusiasm and doing the right things, I thought the kids did a good job this morning. They have to learn to push through some things.

"I wanted to scrimmage more at the end today, but we were running late in practice. We got inside run, tackling drill and got a lot of contact work in today. We got some good film work in. They'll be able to see where their landmarks are and we can see who can get off blocks and make plays. There will be a lot more evaluation now as to who is coming to the forefront as far as who can help us out."

Who's the fastest? In his first college game last season, Quincy McDuffie showed his speed in a big way by taking a kickoff return all the way back for a touchdown. At this past Friday's media day, Eric Lopez asked McDuffie if anybody on the team had the ability to run with him.

"It would have to be Josh Robinson," McDuffie said. "We go at it during the summer a lot. He would be my competition (for fastest player on the team)."

Williams could be a 'Marquee' receiver: One player that appears to be making a move is wide receiver Marquee Williams. The redshirt freshman has made several spectacular catches so far in camp and O'Leary has said on multiple occasions that he figures to take a more prominent role in the offense and maybe even in the return game this year.

During a post-practice interview Monday, senior Kamar Aiken singled Williams out as the most impressive young receiver.

"Marquee Williams is coming up," Aiken said. "We always have faith in him. He's starting to come around and make plays."

Notes: Senior defensive end Bruce Miller has been named to the national watch list for the Bednarik Award, which is awarded annually to college football's top defensive player... Three NFL scouts attended Monday's practice. I spotted representatives of the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots on the far sideline, though my eyes couldn't identify the team logo of the third scout... The team wore last season's game pants for their first day of full pads. The adidas logo has been replaced by a black patch... Unless a late change is made, Tuesday's practice will get underway at the regularly scheduled time of 3 p.m.





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